William Michael Matthews
Getting There

Opening chapter of “GETTING THERE”


1 Irish Bay

     A squall, a long misty curtain of gray swept through Navy Channel between North Pender and Mayne Islands and into the wide expanse of Plumper Sound. A procession of white capped waves marched to the west until finally surging onto the beach at the head of Lyall Harbor.  To the north in Irish Bay, a sailboat rounded up into the wind and a man in yellow raingear ran up to the bow and loosed a heavy anchor which plunged to the sandy ocean floor.

    A sound symphony was playing; the wet slap of the waves against the hull of the boat, rain hissing down, the wind whistling through the rigging wires.  Starlight, the only vessel in the bay, its black hull blending with the monochromatic tones of the surroundings, settled back, doing a lively dance on the end of thirty fathoms of chain and half inch line.  The yellow clad sailor made sure the anchor was holding and then walked back to the stern.  Stepping into the cockpit, he shut off the slowly thumping diesel engine and took a quick series of bearings to establish his position in the bay.

    Off in the distance, the squall obscured the view of Lyall Harbor on Saturna Island.  It was Friday afternoon and the sailor imagined the crowd in the Lighthouse Pub near the ferry terminal.  They would be cozy and warm, drinking their Saltspring Ale, wolfing down the delicious burgers and fries.  It would be a great place to be if you were in the mood for being with friends, talking and having a good time.  But the gray rainy weather in the quiet little cove was much more to his liking than the friendly atmosphere of the pub. 

    The sailor, Mick Brese, realized he had taken his eye off the ball.  All through the years that it had taken to build Starlight, he had steered a steady course.  Most of the time when his buddies had come by the shop wanting him to take time off and go drinking or hiking or kayaking he had told them that he had work to do.  He had been focused like a laser beam and it had still taken him four long years to finish his thirty seven foot cruising sailboat.  Now, when he was just a short time away from going offshore sailing, he had almost sabotaged his dream by falling in love with Claire. 

    He still found it difficult to admit that it was a mistake.  It was more like he had suddenly forgotten what he was trying to achieve.  To Mick, offshore sailing was the Holy Grail, the Mount Everest of sailing dreams and a five foot Chinese girl with the sexiest eyes and the fastest half nelson he had ever seen had almost made him lose his way.   
    He sat down in the cockpit in the shelter of the dodger and looked out at his favorite spot in the Gulf Islands.  He had been here in all kinds of weather; from hot sunny summer days to cold rainy spring days just like this one.  The rain had started out as a light mist around noon and had developed into a dreary depressing downpour. It was the perfect kind of weather for someone wanting to wallow in misery.  He turned and looked down into the cabin.  For a fleeting moment, Claire was there, standing at the bottom of the companionway stairs, looking up at him with that ever optimistic smile on her beautiful face.   He closed his eyes, remembering her and when he opened them again, she was gone.    
    It was getting dark, the clouds and rain being driven along by the wind which showed no signs of easing.  Mick took a last look around the bay, satisfied that the anchor was holding.   He hung his rain jacket from the dodger, headed down below and went about the process of lighting several kerosene lamps which cast a soft warm glow on the teak and mahogany furnishings.  He stood for a moment by the diesel heater mounted on the main bulkhead listening to the rain drumming on the cabin top and looked around the cabin while he warmed himself.  It was the best place in the world.  It was home.
    Mick took his deck boots off and put them at the bottom of the companionway stairs making sure they were handy in case he needed them.  Slipping his feet into a pair of fleece lined slippers; he took a bottle of wine from a rack mounted over the sink in the small u-shaped galley.  It was time for a drink.  Maybe that would help.  It wouldn’t hurt.  Sitting down at the navigation station on the starboard side, he filled a coffee mug with the wine and pulled out the logbook to update it.
    Flipping through the book, he stopped when he saw a page of fine, precise handwriting.  It wasn’t his writing that was for sure.  It was Claire’s.  She had even made a few notes in the margins in Chinese, beautifully formed little characters.  What it said, he would probably never know.  He looked at the date.  Two short weeks ago.  He shook his head, closed the book and took a sip of his wine.  The wine was one that they had picked out together at the town of Ganges on Saltspring Island.  It was usually delicious but tonight it seemed a little bitter.  He went to the sink and poured it out and set about making a pot of coffee.  It was probably the wiser course of action.  He decided he would try to get some work done tonight.  Put the thoughts of Claire out of his head.
    As the coffee brewed, he went forward to a locker on the starboard side of the cabin, just ahead of the main bulkhead.  Opening the locker door Mick pulled out a sliding shelf which supported a life size sculpture of a woman’s head.  This bust was a commission that Mick should have been working on for the last month.  Should have been working on.  Once it was cast in bronze and delivered to the client, it would be a birthday present from the husband of a well known female pianist.  But sculpting had taken a back seat to being with Claire.  In fact, everything had taken a back seat to being with Claire.  For a guy that was so close to finally achieving his dream of offshore sailing, the timing of the relationship couldn’t have been worse.  And of the two of them, as it turned out, Claire was the only one smart enough to recognize it.
    As he looked at the sculpture, his gaze wandered.  There, sitting on the back of the shelf, glowing in the soft shadows of the lamp light, as if calling out to him was a small bronze sculpture.  He reached for it and brought it out into the light.  It was Claire.  He remembered when he had done the original clay model.  It was the day that he had first met her at the pub..


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